Life beyond Radford

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Last updated 26.06.2017

Katharine Bassett

Class of 2011
Lives Canberra, Australia
Attendance at radford Years 11-12
House Huon
Awards, medals or recognition 11-12
  • APA PhD Scholarship
  • Centre for Personalised Immunology Scholarship
  • Rotary Club of Ginninderra Citizenship Award
  • Doctoral, The Australian National University, Immunology, genetics and molecular biology, 2012-Present
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What does life look for you now?

In 2012 I commenced a Bachelor of Medical Science at the Australian National University, with the initial thought of studying post-graduate medicine. During my degree I immersed myself into the medical world, shadowing many doctors and researchers, and it took me about five minutes to realise that medicine was not for me! I spent about two years not really knowing what I wanted to do after university, so I just tried to get really good grades to keep all my options open. In my third year I met Professor Carola Vinuesa, a very successful immunologist at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (seriously, google her - she is amazing!). Her passion for research is really what inspired me to do honours with her. My honours year was one of the most challenging yet rewarding years of my life, and thanks to all the blood, sweat and many many tears.. I graduated with first class honours. Carola then asked if I would continue on with my project by doing a PhD, which is exactly what I did! I am currently half way through my PhD.

I have been very privileged to attend some amazing places both in Australia and overseas, as part of my PhD and in my spare time. I have been fortunate enough to attend many conferences, some of which I have presented my work at. My journey hasn't just been all about the academics... earlier this year I purchased an apartment with my partner and we now live together with our little dog Paco. In my downtime I like to go for long walks with my partner and Paco, play the piano, catch up with my friends and paint.

Tell us what you are passionate about?

I love science. It sounds a little silly but if I didn't love science I probably wouldn't be as driven to continue with my research. I also love to travel, meet new and inspiring people, and lean new things.

What is your favourite Radford moment?

I really loved the formal, graduation and coasties. Everyone was so relaxed after all the assessment was over, and I feel like I got to know people better during this time. I also really enjoyed economics with Mrs Robards - we had a pretty funny bunch of people in that class!

How easy was it to decide what to do in life?

Deciding what to do with my life became a lot easier once I was at university. I had no idea what I was going to do when I was at school, I just tried to do as well as I could to give myself choices. I feel like I didn't really know what I wanted to do until I was in my third year of university (and I am actually not 100% sure what I want to do after my PhD). I recall being pretty anxious during Year 12 because I didn't know what I wanted to do when I "grew up", but now that I look back on it, my experiences during school were limited compared to what I have experienced now.. I am not surprised I didn't know what I wanted to do!

Did your further study or career go exactly as you'd planned?

Of course not! They are not kidding when they say life is like a rollercoaster! I do think that studying hard at both school and university helped it go more smoothly, because good grades meant I had more choice about what university I went to, what degree I studied, and what supervisors I could pick for my honours and PhD. I actually started off in law, and then I changed to a combined Arts and Science degree, and then finally I decided that I wanted to do a Bachelor of Medical Science instead (all within my first six weeks of university!).

What do you know now, that you wish you'd known when you were at Radford?

Your ATAR is just a number, a number which no one cares about as soon as you set foot into university. A high ATAR also doesn't necessarily mean you will do well at university, especially if you attend a competitive university.

The classes you take at university are so different than what you experienced at school. For example, I found chemistry really hard at school.. it just didn't come naturally to me and therefore I didn't really like it. For my degree, first-year chemistry was a compulsory class, and I loved it so much I actually did second-year chemistry!

I found school pretty stressful, especially because I was so worried about grades and my future. I wish I took some of the pressure off myself and spent a little more time with my friends and family, and just being a kid.. because there is plenty of time to be an adult in the future!

What advice do you have for current students?

I felt a lot of pressure from those around me in terms of what I should do (I am a child of two doctors, so naturally I felt the pressure to also become a doctor). Chase what you want to do, because you probably wont succeed in doing something that you don't enjoy. If you are unhappy with what you are doing after school, whether it be at uni or on a gap year, don't be afraid to make a change. I made so many changes with my degree and my classes, and for the most part is was really easy to do.

A big part of growing up (for me at least) was learning to compromise, and part of this was realising that there is so much more to life than studying. I found I made the biggest compromises when it came to my relationships, as I was always putting my studies over my relationships. I think that looking at the bigger picture is really important, and it is something I still do on a daily basis to prioritise those things that are most important to me.

Lastly, always do what makes you happy, both in terms of your career/future life, and also on a day-to-day basis. Enjoy the sun, eat that ice cream, learn a new instrument, spontaneously break out into a dance if that is what it takes. Happiness is so important and I believe it is key to success.

Where are you now?